Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Worlds Apart

The reviews are rolling in for the new U2 record and, predictably, many of them begin by whinging about how insufferable and pompous Bono is. Since it's been awhile since the last U2 album, I'd forgotten about this. But here it is. Again. Over and over. The reviews have been fairly positive but the negative reviews have one glaring similarity -- they are dismissive. They're dismissive in part because the reviewer had that one listen, back when the band invited them to hear the record. One listen.

This is a problem, especially for a record like this. I've listened to it about five times now and it's starting to crystallize, but I'm still not ready to pass judgment on it. The way our world works now doesn't allow for that level of absorption. We take something in and then (usually while it's still playing/showing/we're still reading it) we make our judgment. Regardless of my final judgment (which is inching towards the positive with every listen), I applaud U2's determination to make a record that isn't high concept or easily digested. That's not an easy thing to do in Twitterific microblog-land.

Dollhouse has now aired twice, and fewer people watched the second episode than watched the first, if that's even possible without going into negative numbers. It's disturbing enough that people didn't tune in for the pilot, but that second episode erosion is just a fact of life. I know I've been guilty of it in the past, but I'm trying to give shows more of a chance. I'm glad I checked into the second episode of Dollhouse. I'm being a little disingenuous there, though... it's not like I wouldn't watch anything Joss Whedon gets on the air. But that's because I watched all of Firefly, which started out similarly rocky and got fucking great.

The second episode of Dollhouse was fantastic. The first episode felt like a show that had been cooked for too long. It was unfocused and lacked a throughline but as with all Joss Whedon shows, it had that uniqueness that makes it interesting. The second episode was focused, and the development of the relationship between Echo and Boyd was lovely and emotional, which really helped to clarify and coalesce the show.

What I really, really wish is that Whedon had gotten to shoot and air his original pilot because THAT thing felt like a pilot. Not totally formed, but I thought it was a much better launch than the aired pilot. Topher was much more interesting and less annoying, an intriguingly aware character. The introduction of Echo and explanation of the Actives worked better. And Paul, the resident Fed... he really suffered when they tossed the pilot out. I just thought it was a better representation of Whedon's world than the pilot we saw. It's too bad.

The way TeeVee works now and has worked for an unfortunate number of years is, you'd better hit it out of the fucking box with the pilot or your show's dead. Shows don't get the chance to grow on networks anymore. They won't pick up a full season of a new show and you aren't guaranteed that they'll air, much less shoot, your initial order. So there's far too much pressure on a pilot than there should be. More pressure means more fingers in the pie. More fingers in the pie means myriad points of view. And this means that the original voice -- the creator's -- is subsumed, sometimes to a destructive degree.

This is a necessity of network television, because the goal is to reach as large an audience as possible. Anyone who sells a show to a network gets this, even if it's a sometimes painful process.

Joss Whedon is an interesting case because he had a high-concept show right out of the gate. Buffy was an easy premise to understand, and the pilot totally works as the first episode of the show. You get why we're starting here. It sets the show and the characters up beautifully. The premise is so simple that it's easy to complicate. Joss added many layers to the show and the premise stayed rock solid. Angel was successful partly because it was a spinoff of the Buffyverse. I think we all know this, right? So what happened with Firefly? And Dollhouse?

Think about this for a minute -- Buffy didn't come out of nowhere. There was the movie. And Joss learned what didn't work from the movie. By the time he did the show, he'd lived with the character and the universe and, most crucially, the tone. And he made it work the second time around.

One of the things I appreciate most about Joss is his penchant for exploration, which is where Firefly and Dollhouse live. What we saw with Firefly and are seeing with Dollhouse, I think, is his process. Back in the day, about twenty or thirty years ago, a writer could explore like this because shows were put on the air, and there they stayed. But you can't do that now, not unless you're on cable. You certainly can't do it on network, unless your show was a hit right away (Lost). Although Joss earned a lot of capital with Buffy and Angel, he still gets smacked upside the head for an unclear premise or a half-formed pilot. So he'll get shows on, but then he'll live in hell until either he can figure it out, or the network cancels the show.

Joss is a world-builder. He built Buffy as a world, and spun off Angel into a parallel world that was still within the same universe. Firefly definitely had its own world, and Dollhouse does, too. But world-building usually doesn't spring fully formed. It needs to be nurtured. It needs to grow. It needs (like the formation of a real world) to make mistakes, to try things out. But in TeeVee, you can't do that, which is (I think) why it's so easy to pitch a procedural. You don't have to explain the world, because the world of a procedural has been so well defined. I don't think it's particularly interesting, but it is comforting and familiar to an audience, and the executives know that.

Joss doesn't work that way. His worlds are messy and complicated but if you stick around, they are fascinating. This type of exploration is a huge part of what I love most about TeeVee. And if I were Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams, then I could world-build. But not yet, gentle readers.

So people are dumping on Dollhouse. That's fine if you don't like Joss's process, or you prefer more clarity in your shows or premises. But if you're one of the people who is upset with the TeeVee status quo, then shame on you. And shame on me, too, for not always supporting these types of shows. But I'm going to make more of an effort to do so in the future. Hey, Fringe got good when y'all weren't looking, too!

I really do appreciate when people go for it, when they don't go for the cynical, obvious, easy answer. Being too cool, or too literal, or too predictable. I always hope that writers pitch what they truly love, but I don't always feel that they do. I miss big, elegiac shows, too. I don't think we've had one since the West Wing. I know it's fashionable to hate that show, but it did so many things wonderfully well. It was smart, for one. It was unabashed in its point of view; it didn't try to please everyone. And damn, Sorkin WENT for it on that show. Witness this sequence, from the second-season ender, Two Cathedrals. The only shows in recent memory that have used music this effectively are Sarah Connor (down, Deepstructure!) and Mad Men.

Being cynical is a safe default in TeeVee. If you're cynical, then you're doing something cool. You can deride shows that wear their hearts on their sleeves. Let's face it. Everyone wants to be cool. But being honest and open-hearted and not being afraid to show you love your characters, well... that's the truly brave thing to do.

I wanted to mention the Christian Bale thing, too, since I forgot to do so last time. People, step off. If you really think Christian Bale was wrong for what he said to the DP, I'm pretty sure you've never spent time on a set. This wasn't the first time the DP had gotten in Bale's eyeline. Bale's rant, for what it's worth, was pretty even-handed. And the only thing that made it notable, to me, was the fact that the director just fucking stood there and let it happen. Um, McG? It's your SET, dude. Why do you let this go on for four minutes? The second Bale starts on the DP, your job is to TAKE FUCKING CONTROL. Get the DP out of there, assure Bale it won't happen again. You don't stand there like an impotent jackass. You just don't. Grow a fucking spine.

Christian Bale is not a monster. He's a professional. And if the DP had been a professional, too, this wouldn't have happened. I think it's appalling that Bale was forced to apologize to the entire planet because somebody broke the rules and leaked this to the press. I'll bet that asshole didn't have to apologize to anyone. At least Bale wasn't forced to go to anger counseling.

np - Mando Diao, "Give Me Fire"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited

Because I'm lazy today, here are words of inspiration from David Bishop, of the excellent blog Vicious Imagery:
So here's a belated resolution for 2009: no more excuses, no more waiting around. I don't want to hear myself talking about what I wish I was writing, what I'm planning to write in the future. Fuck the future. If you want to be a TV writer, you make something happen by bloody writing. That's not rocket science, it's common sense - but you need to embrace that reality and act up it.

Don't be content to sit on the subs' bench, waiting for somebody - a script editor, a publisher, an agent, a producer or a competition - to invite you into the game. You want to play? Get your boots on, get your freak on and get writing.

This is easy to forget, especially when staffing season rolls around because there's the promise of jobs. But remember, the business is changing, and not in your favor. If you're just breaking in, or if you haven't been fortunate enough to get on a long-running, popular show (these days, any show that last longer than 13 episodes), this business is going to punch you very hard in the head. Repeatedly. Studios, networks and showrunners have hundreds of people to choose from for one staff job. Because so many people weigh in, shows are normally staffed by consensus. Studios and networks insist on people and have grudges against others, showrunners hire their friends or people they've worked with, there's no job at your level, etc. So all you can do is keep writing.

So what should you write?

The inclination is to write that one thing that will knock everyone's socks off, that will make them take notice of you. You'll show THEM! Don't fall into this trap. It's an impossible goal. If you don't already have a reputation, you still have the same problem as you do trying to get on staff -- you have to find the exact right person for your material. All you have to do to know this is true is look at Desperate Housewives or Mad Men. These scripts floated around, gentle readers, until they finally landed on the desks of the right people. So don't set a lofty goal like, "I'm going to write the script that will be universally adored." Because it isn't going to happen. Write what you want to write. Write what you don't have. And do that really, really well.

Speaking of shows, nobody watched Sarah Connor or Dollhouse on Friday, which probably seals the fates for both shows. I'm very angry at America for not watching Sarah Connor, which I consider to be one of the best shows on TeeVee right now. But it's science fiction the way Battlestar Galactica is science fiction. It would like you to think. And most people don't want to think when they're watching TeeVee. As soon as Lost asked the audience to think, the audience went, "No thanks." A very small number of viewers watches this kind of TeeVee. I think we know what most viewers like: Plot-driven standalone crime shows where you can only half pay attention and still get the gist of it.

I'm still not quite sure what to make of Dollhouse. As a pilot, it didn't set up the show. Sometimes I like the idea of being dropped into a world, but I didn't find the world of Dollhouse to be defined enough for that. Not yet. And while I partly agree about Echo, in that it's hard to identify with her because she is a cipher who becomes different people each week, I also see how the writers are dealing with that. I think it kind of worked. The identities Echo assumes are of real people, and the real person she became in the pilot had a very emotional problem that tied into the case. That worked for me. And since the clients know that Echo is a blank slate infused with another personality, Eliza Dushku's youth isn't a problem.

But the Alpha mythology was abruptly dropped in there and since we don't know a whole lot about the dollhouse and the program yet, I don't think we're ready for mythology. With Buffy, the mythology was about her initially and then spread outward. I think Dollhouse would be best served by that as well. The pilot felt like it had gotten lost a bit, which probably has something to do with the difficulties the show went through. The world isn't working for me yet. In contrast, the world of Firefly was rich and real. But America just didn't care. I commend Joss for attempting science fiction on TeeVee, but I think he's gonna get smacked down for this one, too. Still, there's something to be said for a writer who honestly does the shows he wants to do instead of kowtowing to the status quo and cranking out procedurals. But then I think about what happens to those of us who are Not Joss when we try to pitch our science fiction shows. Wait. I know how that one ends...

Here's a quote from Steven Johnson on Lost/Twin Peaks:
Twin Peaks is definitely a precursor to Lost (along with Star Trek, X-Files, etc.) But it was largely a commercial flop after a strong open: it limped its way through a second season and was canceled. And in terms of narrative complexity, it wasn't even in the same league as Lost; yes, there were multiple threads and a lot of ambiguity, but nothing like the depth of Lost's mythology, and all the formal tricks (the time structure, etc.)

I strenuously disagree. The depth of Lost's mythology has become a freaking pile-on. One I'm weirdly enjoying, but still. It's one thing on top of another with no resolution. Twin Peaks was, in my view, a much more tightly focused show. Sure, it wandered around from time to time (Leo, freaking Nadine, etc), but the show had one central conceit and spun out of that. I don't know how many conceits Lost has anymore. Lost is metaphysical because there's a physicist, and because they keep mentioning Philip K. Dick and all those philosophers. Twin Peaks didn't need to mention anything. That show was metaphysical without winking about it to the audience. I've never seen anything so deliciously dualistic on TeeVee. And yes, Twin Peaks lost its way after the Laura Palmer resolution, but what Johnson fails to mention is that it found its way again. There are so many moments on that show that you just can't do on TeeVee, and they did it. Lost's story is rooted in its influences. Twin Peaks stood on its own. For all its lofty metaphysical goals, Lost is a very safe show. Twin Peaks was never safe.

In a similar vein, science fiction writer Rudy Rucker made a comment on his blog awhile back that there are no new ideas in science fiction, and he wondered where the new ideas were going to come from. I always thought that the joy of science fiction was not in new ideas but in the way writers explored the already existing conventions of the genre. And I think the genre's doing just fine, because there have always been writers who read Asimov or Heinlein or Philip K. Dick as a kid and want to explore their own take on those conventions. And if you take fantasy into account, that genre's even older than science fiction but writers still find ways to use the old stories and myths and tell compelling stories. Vampire and werewolf romance excepted, of course. I'll die happy if I never see another naked back with a vaguely Celtic tramp stamp on a book cover.

But Rucker was talking about novels. This gets much harder when you talk about TeeVee. We already know that you can't do full-blown space shows on TeeVee. Battlestar Galactica never got the audience it deserved. And the dearth of viewers for Dollhouse and Sarah Connor is telling us that we can't do "grounded" science fiction, either. Lost has science fictional elements, and so does Fringe. But notwithstanding how freaking cool the mythology is, I'm betting Fox doesn't think Fringe working. Science fiction is about building worlds. Not necessarily alien worlds, or worlds on other planets. But the world of your story or show. A procedural comes with a built-in world -- whatever city you want to set the thing in. Procedurals have an incredibly narrow focus but the procedural is also a proven formula for TeeVee. It doesn't matter if you're in New York, Los Angeles or Decatur, as long as you're catching serial killers, dusting crime scenes, interrogating drug dealers or mentalizing, the audience will be with you.

That makes it increasingly harder to do genre but I'm just glad networks are still ordering it. You just have to be about nine kinds of clever to succeed as a genre show and one way to do it is to not sell it as a genre show, and to sneak those elements in. It's possible to do but it's HARD and it requires a lot more brain power than does coming up with a quirky cop. I don't blame writers for selling quirky cops or medical shows or shows about how a woman's place is in the home (not even kidding there). This is a business. You pitch what you can sell. But the dream lives on.

A note from Amy about theft:
Although, my dearest Kay, I would argue the chances that Heroes borrowed from your pilot are slim. After all, everyone knows that Heroes is a direct rip-off of The 4400. Execs at NBC Uni have even acknowledged to me personally that "it seems like the showrunners over there are using your playbook for the show." But, hey, what do I care? Heroes sucks and The 4400 doesn't pay me anymore.

I would guess that the chances of him having even heard of our pilot are so infinitely small that they are quantifiably impossible to measure. The reason Heroes looks like so many other things that has come before it is the exact opposite of theft. Tim Kring is not a comic book guy, or a science fiction/genre guy. So to him, these ideas he had were totally fresh and new. His problem was, he wasn't familiar enough with the genre to steal from it. When people wonder why the show went off the rails so severely, there's your answer. Would you write a medical show or a cop show without any familiarity whatsoever with those genres? Of course not. So that's another reason I don't like Heroes. He showed no respect at all towards the genre, and now it's biting him in the ass.

Still, the origin and evolution of Heroes is much too close to The 4400 to ignore. Although ignore it is exactly what Rogers did when he claimed characters with superpowers was new to a TV audience. Fact is, The 4400 had already been on the air for two years when Heroes was being developed.

We've definitely seen superheroes on TeeVee, going all the way back to the 80s. Most recently, Buffy was a superhero. We just hadn't seen it done so freaking blatantly before.

I'm hoping to read some pilots this week, which will give me next week's blog post. Hooray!

np -- Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited, of course!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Give Back the Sun

Seriously. GIVE IT BACK. No more rain.

First fall pickup! First fall pickup! It will be Eastwick, the ABC pilot written by Maggie Friedman. The show hasn't officially been picked up, of course, but David Nutter just signed on to direct. Since he's 13-for-13 or some nonsense like that, this is as sure a thing as exists.

I now have all the pilots and will be reading them as time permits. Y'know how I was saying there were a lot of genre pilots? Just saw an article that talked about how many cop/lawyer/doctor pilots there are. It doesn't look to me like there are any more than usual. You always expect that there will be a majority of cop/lawyer/doctor pilots. That's just the way it works. What IS a little different thing year is that there are a few political pilots. As drama, I find politics endlessly fascinating. There are a lot of options with a Washington show. It'll be interesting to see how they fare, especially since there's only been one truly successful political show. Good luck, political peoples. I think you may need it.

Onto some comments. I have been especially remiss in that arena.

Devon sez:
You said "people should get pissed." Okay. Do you mean just people who work in the industry, or outside it as well? What can regular viewers do to help shift things?

Just turning off the TeeVee doesn't help.

This was in regards to the post about turning TeeVee into a business first and foremost. Here's the thing. I don't think you can fool the audience into watching something they don't want to watch, but I think you can train the audience to a certain degree. CSI started and people went, "Hey, I like this!" And then CSI trained them for The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, and all the myriad procedurals. But CSI existed before the audience for CSI did.

It's not up to the audience to dictate anything, or try to change anything. That's impossible. The audience exists because there's something to watch. If there's nothing to watch, there's no such thing as an audience. I firmly believe that there is going to be product on the Internet very soon that will draw substantial viewership. People are slowly being trained to watch things this way. More and more people are watching networks like Hulu on their computers. the computer is becoming a larger part of peoples' lives. The TeeVee business is not changing to accommodate this, which is part of why the cutbacks are happening (the other being the fact that these companies don't stand on their own. They're entertainment divisions of companies that are failing). So it's not going to be up to the executives and CEOs to make changes. It has to be up to the people making TeeVee. The actual creators of content. This is happening very slowly but if we were more aggressive, we could make it happen a lot faster. But economics being what they are, we gots to make a living, so we're stuck in this model for now.

Also, congrats on the YA horse racing mystery! I have always had a secret yearning to write exactly that, and I can't wait to read it when it's out.

Hugh says,
FWIW - I thoroughly enjoy Twilight, but a) I've not seen the film yet and b) constantly defending my enjoyment of it gets a bit wearing after a while. Not an attack on you or your blog at all there - but I've never seen this level of general dislike directed at any fiction before.

There have been things I've tirelessly defended too, so I can sympathize. I think the vitriol is to be expected because Twilight's not as universally loved as Harry Potter. Try to be a Harry Potter hater and see how many people want to throw rocks at you. Seriously, people act like those are the greatest books on the planet and they basically call you inhuman for not liking them. With Twilight, though, it's got that romance stigma and it's a pretty easy target. My dislike for it stems from my dislike for what I see as bad writing. However, my dislike for Twilight cannot even approach my level of dislike for Dan Brown. I mean, it's not even in the same league.

Alex goes,
Ironically, a couple of days after you posted this, I was interviewing Malcolm MacRury (ZOS), and he just shot a pilot for a light detective show. Set in St. John's, Newfoundland.

So either the Canucks are years behind you guys, or way ahead.

Ha! See?? I think you're ahead in a few ways, because I see you doing fun stuff that's just entertaining. And that's not a dismissal. I LOVE entertainment, and it's a lot harder than it looks.

Chad says,
But see, nowadays even when you have a "light detective show," the current TeeVee template seems to demand a mythology. "Monk" and "The Mentalist" both have the search for wives' killers. "Burn Notice" has its conspiracy mythology. "Psych" seems to have avoided that (I haven't seen enough of "Leverage" to know if it's avoiding this pitfall, but I have faith in you, John), but otherwise no one's interested in just watching someone solve crimes week to week. There has to be (insert trumpets) SOMETHING BIGGER!

I'm of two minds about this. Hmm. Two minds... hang on, I'm going to go pitch a quirky procedural...

Anyway. On the one hand, yes, absolutely right. There is mythology. When I look back at shows I really enjoyed, there wasn't mythology exactly... there was character. With Magnum PI (shut up, I like that show), the show would follow threads about Magnum's past in Vietnam and with the Navy, Higgins' past with the British Army and intelligence, Magnum's wife (NOT a successful little storyline, that), Rick and TC's various activities... there would be subplots and storylines. But an ongoing mythology? Nope. Same with Simon & Simon (shut up, I like that show), where they did a particularly nice episode involving the Simons' father and would delve into Rick's past in Vietnam (remember Vietnam as a backstory? Those days are over) and AJ's many interests. The pasts of these characters would be explored, but then they would be onto their next case. I think Remington Steele upped the ante a little bit, because Steele's past was a part of the premise. However, it never got in the way of the show. It enhanced the show, and it was nicely integrated.

Was X-Files the first show that really did mythology and actually called it mythology? I'm not positive. But X-Files changed everything. It was a procedural wrapped in science fiction paper with a serialized bow on top. It was a hybrid (ironic), and it was one of the first instances where an ongoing storyline that wasn't St. Elsewhere or Dallas or Dynasty (etc) captured peoples' attention.

A long-winded way of agreeing with you, but also saying that we could take a look at the pre-X-Files landscape and go back to character a little. What's funny is, shows like Monk and the Mentalist are considered character-driven shows because of these mythologies. But really, they're external devices applied to the show's premise. Although with Burn Notice, what's happened to Michael is a part of the premise, so I'd exclude that one. And I find that much more interesting than just a mechanism.

I think we have to stop thinking of mythology as something to apply to a show, and think of character and backstory. Unless you're doing Lost or Battlestar Galactica, or Fringe to a certain extent, adding mythology to your show is like adding a high-speed chip to Multivac. Pointless.

Along those lines Kira goes,
Chad, you're right on the money. Apparently the trick to an art theft show is to wrap it in a DA VINCI CODE/NATIONAL TREASURE/Indy Jones mythology. Exhibit A, Fox's MASTERWORK, just picked up to pilot.

I can totally see how this would sell to a network. No question (although you have to be Paul Scheuring to be able to sell it). However, it is completely possible to do an art theft show and NOT include a vast mythology. Remington Steele was ostensibly an art theft show, and it can be done today, too. Or it could be, if they would let you. They won't. The question is always, "Art? What are the stakes?" What they REALLY mean is, "Who dies?" Those are apparently the only stakes that matter.

David wonders,
How do you handle feedback? I'd love to get your opinion!

I react defensively and usually argue my approach. How do I decide what I should change, whose opinion I should trust, and how do I implement said feedback without feeling like I have lost everything I enjoyed and that it is no longer a work of my authorship, but rather a compilation of problems other people had with what I wrote or others' suggestions that I implemented. How do I become a writer that accepts, understands, and acknowledges good feedback (versus being defensive) and possibly even a writer who realizes the faults in his scripts before they reach the hands of someone else?

There are many things I hate about TeeVee, and one of the major things I hate is how feedback is given. If you work in TeeVee and you don't get defensive and pissed off at least once, then you are living a charmed life, my friend. You need to be extremely careful about how much you fight. If you're getting notes from a showrunner and you don't agree with the notes, you need to dig deep and make sure that this is in service of the show, and not your ego. You will probably have to kill ALL your babies when you're on staff. And if you are constantly arguing with your showrunner, you will be labeled as difficult, and that can kill you.

It is thoroughly understandable to get defensive. What you've written is a part of you and when people criticize it, you feel as if you are being criticized. You will never get over this, but you have to find a way to deal with it. For me, it's not impossible to handle on a show because I know why I'm there. I'm still figuring this out with pilots, though, because I tend to go in the opposite direction. I let feedback take over. I do all the notes. This is also stupid. There's a middle ground, and you have to find it. Usually what happens when I finish something and give it an agent or a producer is, I get depressed. Because when I'm working on something on spec, I'm loving what I'm doing. But my love for the project is never equal to anyone else's. I tend to want to do things that aren't conventional and that doesn't generally go over well.

In order to gain perspective, there are a few things you can do. Being in a writer's group is very helpful because it allows you to give feedback, too, and this makes you more sensitive to the people giving you notes. The most important thing, and the one thing you can't really control, is to have a mentor. Now, a mentor is not someone who torments you and beats you up to make you tougher. A mentor is someone who nurtures your writing and also teaches you. If you can find someone you respect who will mentor you, then you will start to get more confident in your work. This will help you figure out which notes are helpful and which are ass.

Lastly, a few rules:
First rule (I don't know how much you've written, BTW) -- write a lot. Read a lot of scripts. You HAVE to have this foundation before you can recognize what good feedback is. Second rule -- if ten people say that something doesn't work, it probably doesn't work. Third rule -- if ten people all have different issues, then you have to make the call. Fourth rule -- if you feel like you're losing authorship, then you ARE. Put the brakes on and accept that even though people are trying to help you, chances are they aren't helping you. Some people give you notes based on what THEY would have done. This could not be less helpful and is, in fact, destructive. You will start to figure out what good feedback is because it will be something that makes you MORE excited, not less excited. Or, if not excited, then at least resigned. As in, "Shit. That's a totally valid note, damn your eyes."

AJ says,
Howevah I gots a question. I know this is a sort of paranoid/cynical kinda scenario to pose, but given that you've pitched a pilot similar to Masterwork many times before, what's to say that Scheuring didn't just lift the idea from you? Word obviously gets around about the pilot ideas that get rejected from year to year, right? Am I too far off base here? And if not, how much of that kinda stuff actually happens/has happened that you know of?

He didn't. I'm absolutely positive of that. And even though there was a show on the air that was exactly this (Veritas), he didn't steal it from them, either. When we were on Millennium, people on message boards would go, "Did you see the last episode? The writers totally stole that from me!" But see, we were spending every day coming up with ideas for the show. It stands to reason that we would come up with the same idea a fan came up with. Hell, I don't even think Tim Kring stole Heroes from us, and that was a pilot that we'd sold and written. It sucks when someone comes up with the same idea. It really does. Actually, Bruckheimer just sold a show and it's the exact same idea we pitched to producers a few weeks ago. This was an idea we'd had for a few years. But Bruckheimer didn't steal it from us. There are only so many stories to tell, and it makes sense that writers are going to come up with the same idea on occasion. What really sucks, though, is when we don't get staffed on those shows!

I'm of half a mind to write my art theft pilot, just to use as a sample for the flood that will be coming.

This was long, but I was answering QUESTIONS, man!!!!

np -- Cilla Black, "Anyone Who Had A Heart"